Southampton awarded lowest possible score under new teaching excellence framework

Falling behind non-Russell Group institutions

The TEF has rated 295 institutions bronze, silver or gold according to their standard of undergraduate teaching. Under the new system, which aims to help students make informed choices about their chosen degree, Southampton (along with other top universities) only managed to achieve a bronze rating.

Scores were based on statistics including dropout rates, student satisfaction and graduate employment rates.

A gold award means a university is of the highest quality, providing “consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes”. The  silver award was given for consistently exceeding “rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education” and bronze was awarded to those that simply met these requirements.

While more than half of Russell Group universities did not score a gold rating, many former polytechnics did manage to achieve a gold rating. These include universities such as Portsmouth, Coventry and De Montfort.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said the fact that some of the results “seemed surprising” suggested the TEF was working.

“The TEF would have comprehensively failed if it had simply replicated existing hierarchies. It was always designed to do something different to other league tables and rankings – namely, to show where there are pockets of excellence that have been ignored and to encourage improvements elsewhere.”

However, Southampton have criticised the system as being unfair and unreliable. Southampton university plan to appeal against the bronze rating.

Vice-chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden said it was “hard to have confidence in a TEF which appears devoid of any meaningful assessment of teaching”.

“I know I am not alone in having deep concerns about its subjective assessment, its lack of transparency, and with different benchmarks for each institution removing any sense of equity and equality of assessment. Our own student satisfaction metrics, including satisfaction with teaching, are better than some of those universities who have been awarded silver and gold today.”

Although the results may not be completely reliable, they do highlight the fact that many top universities may be short-changing students with poor lectures, aloof tutors or second-rate facilities.